SANGERVILLE, Maine — Sangerville residents voted to place a moratorium on development related to a proposed east-west highway during Saturday’s town meeting.
Residents voted nearly unanimously to place a six-month moratorium on any development related to the east-west corridor, Sangerville Town Manager Dave Pearson said on Tuesday.
Sangerville isn’t alone in taking steps to slow development of the corridor. The Piscataquis County town of Monson is in its second 180-day moratorium on such development. The Penobscot County towns of Garland and Charleston are planning similar moratoriums, according to officials.
The proposed corridor includes a 220-mile toll highway connecting Calais to Coburn Gore, making an east-west route from New Brunswick to Quebec. Cianbro Corp. President and CEO Peter Vigue, who has been a leading voice in favor of the route, has previously said the highway would avoid town centers and pass between Dover-Foxcroft and Dexter. He also has said that eminent domain will not be used in acquiring land for the project.
“We don’t have a land use ordinance or zoning,” Pearson said. “There are concerns about what this thing means and what’s involved. They want this moratorium to give the planning board time to study the impact on it and whether there needs to be a stand-alone ordinance. In theory, the planning board and other folks would start working on this ordinance, and in six months probably bring it back to a town meeting for adoption.”
Pearson said the moratorium would expire on September 23, but it gives the town an opportunity to “call a timeout.
“If somebody were to come in right now and ask for a permit for shoreland zoning for the east-west corridor, the planning board would have to say we can’t because of the moratorium,” Pearson said.
Planning board chairman Jerry Peters spoke out in favor of the moratorium during the meeting.
“At one point [Vigue] said it would miss Dexter and Dover-Foxcroft and go between them. That leaves Sangerville,” he said.
Of the 150 or so who attended Saturday’s meeting, only three voted against the moratorium, said Peters.
“That was a pretty emphatic statement, I would say,” he said. “I don’t know if everybody is opposed to it, but everybody has questions about it. I don’t think that sits well with people. I wish they were more open.”
Pearson said he has concerns about the proposed east-west corridor.
“I’m kind of concerned about it. I don’t know who’s behind it or what the plan is,” he said. “There should be more transparency on this. It’s pretty hard to support something when you don’t know who’s backing it, where it’s going or whether there’s a pipeline attached it.”
There may be hidden costs to the town as well, he said.
“For us, we will probably have to update our ambulance crew and fire department for accidents on the highway,” Pearson said. “I’m leery on this, honestly. I need to be convinced and I don’t see anybody out there convincing me.”
Monson Town Manager Julie Anderson said a 180-day moratorium on the east-west corridor was passed in September 2012. That moratorium was extended a further 180 days. It is set to expire in September.
“It was passed to stop development until the planning board can set guidelines in our land use ordinance for these big developments,” said Anderson, who added the moratorium was passed unanimously during a special town meeting last year.
Garland Administrative Assistant Julie Kimball said plans for a moratorium are forthcoming.
“We had it in our town warrant, but the problem is that we didn’t have a fair hearing,” said Kimball.
An east-west corridor committee made of up town residents was created, she said. They will “start working with the planning board to cover all of our bases so when we do get [a moratorium] in place, we don’t miss it due to a technicality.”
She expects a special town meeting regarding the issue to be held in late June or early July.
On Monday, residents placed a moratorium in front of the Charleston selectmen to be reviewed.
“We’re currently reviewing it and we’ll be sending it to our legal department,” said Teri Lynn Hall, selectboard chair. “It will be a few months down the road. We have to send it to our legal department to check to make sure all the terminology is correct. It’s the first one we’ve ever dealt with. We want to make sure we dot all of our i’s and cross all our t’s.”
Hillier Artman of Sangerville, who spoke during Saturday’s town meeting in Sangerville, said the east-west highway will be a tough sell.
“Nobody wants it. The people I talked to don’t want anything to do with it,” he said. “The people who don’t care [either way] don’t live anywhere near [the likely proposed route].”
An earlier version of this story requires correction. Planning board chairman Jerry Peters spoke in favor of the moratorium, not against the east-west highway.